So, 2011 is drawing to a close and it is my tradition to take a few moments and write up my top Angels Baseball moments for the 2011 season. It should be noted that, as this blog is now just over a year old, tradition means I am doing it for the second time. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right? …But I digress. These are not the Angels only highlights for the season or even necessarily the ones that folks who get paid to analyze this kind of stuff would point out. There are enough articles about that floating around out there already. No, these are the highlights, both Angels and personal, that made my baseball season, in no particular order:
Jered Weaver! Both the season he had – which, were it not for Verlander’s even more amazing season would have easily been a Cy Young season – and the fact that he signed a contract with the Angels through 2016. I loved every minute I spent watching this homegrown dynamo on the mound and look forward to many more in the seasons to come.
Being Wrong. Yes, sometimes being wrong is a great thing and I am thrilled that I was wrong to have worried about Mark Trumbo taking over at first base. My concerns were based on his rookie call-up outings and the issues he had getting into position for plays during Spring Training. But the AL Rookie of the Year runner up worked hard to improve quickly at first and was a bright spot in an offense that was otherwise anything but. None of this guarantees that Trumbo will also be good at third base, but he has more than earned my interest in seeing what he can do in yet another new position.
Ervin Santana’s No Hitter. A former on one season then wild as all get out the next pitcher, Santana showed he has gained considerable consistency following up on his excellent 2010 season with another quality season, and how! The no hitter was merely the most obvious indicator of thischange, but what an indicator it was.
Dan Haren’s 1 hit shutout. And we were there!! Having a full season with Haren on the team would have been a highlight in and of itself, but getting to see this game, live and in person, with a great view of every nasty pitch going over the plate was absolute baseball magic.
Young Angels’ feats. I said it many times throughout the regular season, the Angels rookies and practically rookies made my season. Whether it was watching Peter Bourjos’ dramatic plays in center, Tyler Chatwood’s development on the mound or Mark Trumbo slowly make opposing pitchers start to take notice, the Angels “kids” made the game a lot of fun to watch and gave me significant hope for future seasons.
Personal Game Attendance at an All-Time High! So I tallied it up and we went to 22 games this season, two of which were the Angels/A’s double header. Wow! So. Ummmm…Hon, when you read this, remember how that fact of that being absolutely (Wonderfully!) crazy is tempered by my folks and your boss giving us tickets. 😉 Being at the game so often gave us the chance to catch a lot of season highlights. Bourjos’ first home run of the season. Trumbo’s first big league homerun. A couple of flying Bourjos catches. An I can’t believe he caught that Torii Hunter catch…and that was just during the Haren 1-hit shutout game, no kidding. There was even more than that over the course of the other 21 games. I only hope that tickets are not so expensive this season that we have difficulties getting to the game. I don’t have to go to 22 games (Though I will never turn it down!) but if I don’t get to the ballpark every couple of weeks or so, crankiness is likly to ensue. 🙂
Travelling for Baseball. Seth and I have talked about eventually seeing a game in every Major League stadium for years, but it has also been years since we’ve been able to do any real travelling. This season we finally got started on our plans and while we may have started small we started well, travelling up to the Bay Area to visit with friends and watch games at the Coliseum and AT&T Park. So. Much. Fun! This coming season, the way things look, I think we may only be able to make it down to Petco Park in San Diego, which is local but still progress.
And last but not least…I hesitate to include this winter’s signings only because at the moment Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson have not had the opportunity to take a single swing or deliver a single pitch for the Angels. We suspect they will be strong, difference making additions to the team but while it’s all still just on paper, it’s only highly probable, not actual. But I will add this to my list: last year at this time I was writing about Hot Stove Grief (Hey, this is a serious disorder. Wipe that smirk off your face!) and feeling like the front office was just phoning it in. Today I feel like the front office is really working to put the best team on the field they possibly can and I am hopeful and excited for the season to begin. What a difference a few months make!
First things first – Welcome back from the All Star Break in style Angels!!! Okay, okay. So the Angels’ All Star Break lasted a little longer than that of most other teams…pretty much until Wednesday, round about the 3rd inning actually. But after a crazy comeback win against the Rangers Wednesday and shutting the Rangers out on Thursday, I think I can cut the Angels some slack. After all, who among us hasn’t experienced “vacation lag”? I know I’m experiencing it this week!
So, about that vacation. We wrapped up the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza with a visit to the beautiful and luxurious AT&T Park on Monday night to take in the Giants vs. Dodgers game. And if I was late enough to the game that I missed first pitch, so were all of these fine folks. Hmmm…I think L.A. has been unjustly maligned on this point 😉 :
Late for the game? How does this happen on vacation? We went for a bike ride late Monday morning on the Marsh Creek trail in Pittsburgh, CA, along marshes and canals off of San Francisco Bay. It was so beautiful and fun that we didn’t hit the car again until 24 miles and a few hours later. So much for catching batting practice, but darned if we didn’t have a blast:
AT&T Park is gorgeous, from the front gates to the seating areas to the view out over the right field all to the tops of ships in McCovey Cove.:
My college friend and his partner, Giants fans, both, accompanied us to the game and clued us in to some of AT&T Park’s finer details. For example, I had no idea that the grates in right field are open to the public walk that runs between the stadium and McCovey Cove. Fans strolling by are invited to stand and watch some of the game free of charge. Very cool:
There is not a bad seat in the house, certainly not our second row seats in the club section just above left field – vacations are for splurges after all! And there are lots of fan friendly touches in the seating sections. Club section ushers politely only allow fans past the doors to their seats in between plays and at bats, so seated fans don’t miss a pitch. In the outfield “bleachers” there are wide, lower concourses in front of the seats, so fans can pass by without blocking anyone’s view.:
If the Coliseum is no frills, AT&T Park is all frills possible. The food is phenomenal and there is quite a diverse selection. And in the club section, there are full bars with actual bartenders! I ordered an Irish coffee to keep the chill away in the later innings, and the bartender wisely never touched the Bailey’s while preparing my drink. Eureka!
Though I was amused to note that for all its frills, AT&T Park is still a mixed use facility. Note that from this vantage, in a different uniform, Cody Ross could be playing goalie:
Being on vacation, I was really out of the loop on trade news. Imagine my surprise, when this friendly face appeared on the Jumbotron in Dodger Blue. Welcome back to sunny Southern California, Juan, and best of luck to you!
When you’re not really cheering for either side, a competitive game is the most fun to watch, and this game was better than the 5 to 0 shutout score would lead one to believe. The Dodgers made a couple of really good plays and had several strong hits, but just couldn’t string any of it together long enough to get on the board. The Giants played very well throughout.:
So with all of this wonderfulness, were there any drawbacks AT&T Park? Just one actually, and it really surprised me. I love Giants fans. I went to the Bay Area to stay with and attend the game with two of them. I have rabid Giants fans in my family. I attended playoff parties with scores of them in Paso Robles and count several in their number as friends but, oh my goodness, when they all get together in one large group at AT&T Park, an awful lot of them choose to be dicks. In the club section for crying out loud! Not in the “we all came to get drunk and obnoxious but can’t name more than a handful of players on the team” section. Now I don’t know where the “we all came to get drunk and obnoxious but can’t name more than a handful of players on the team” section is at AT&T Park, but they must have one. All ballparks have one. We certainly do. 😉
I am not some delicate flower that cannot cope with heckling. Hello, how much time do I spend at the ballpark? Cheering. Heckling. Being passionate for your team. All are very important, traditional parts of the game for home fans and visiting fans alike. But isn’t it supposed to stay in the stands? In my experience at the Big A with rival fans and walking through Dodger Stadium and the Coliseum in Angels gear, the concourse, the bathrooms, the food stands, the ticket lines, etc, are all neutral ground, free from any of the fan on fan heckling that may or may not be going on in the seats.
Not so at AT&T Park. Walking through the concourse on the club level, past the carving station, the full bar and other wonders, Seth turned to me with a huge smile and said, Wow, this makes the club level in Anaheim look pretty plain. And he’s right. I love the Big A, but it is nowhere near this luxurious. A random Giants fan heard us and said loudly, that’s because the Angels suck as his friends all nodded and laughed and it wasn’t friendly laughter. Really? We weren’t even talking to him. “Not when they play the Giants…not in 2002.” Well that wasn’t nearly as funny, apparently, and the group of them quickly dispersed.
Random jerks and an isolated incident, right? Well, not for the Dodgers fans in attendance. I saw three separate instances of lone Dodger fans being heckled, and not in a “we’re friends who came together and are giving each other grief” way either, by small groups of Giants fans while we walked to our seats. I saw more instances later. On the concourse! On the club level!! For all I know, this goes on in reverse at Dodgers stadium, outside of the aforementioned “we all came to get drunk and obnoxious…” section. But the impression I got is that some Giants fans are wearing their new World Series title a lot more gracefully than others.
I’m not saying that the Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown mean kids “We’re number one! We’re number one!” vibe ruined my trip to the ball park. I had an amazing time. What I am saying is that amenities are lovely, frills make any experience that much more special, and given the chance to return to AT&T Park again as a baseball fan with no real ties to either team, as I did on this occasion, I would do so in a heartbeat. But as for attending a game as an out of town fan of the visiting team? I’d take the Coliseum over AT&T Park any day.
Of course, I would have dearly loved to amend Ernie Banks’ famous quote to let’s win two for this post but, alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Not in the double header and not even in the series. Ouch. Seriously, did you see Sunday’s score?! Ouch!
With the Angels entering the All Star Break on such a roll, we didn’t really want to break just then. And then coming back from the break to Peter Bourjos moving from day to day status to the DL until the 23rd and Vernon Wells too ill to start? Suffice to say, it was not a recipe for success. However, it was not a guaranteed disaster either, despite the eventual outcome. No, the Angels old “friends”, lack of RISP and difficulty getting the third out, played a large roll here too. Whatever is going on, the Angels need to get it together by Tuesday, because Texas is coming to town and we can’t lose any more series in our division right now or things just went from hard to really darned difficult in a hurry.
But back to that double header part. Single admission. Double header. On Saturday in Oakland. Who could resist the old fashioned allure of a draw like that? Not this girl. Saturday I was at the Coliseum bright and early with my husband and a good friend from college, ready to continue the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza with 18 innings of baseball…which turned into 19 by the end. It was a great day at the ballpark indeed. The weather was mild, our seats were excellent and we were seated in good company with just enough red nearby to not feel like we were cheering alone.
First, a note about the A’s ballpark. I heard horror stories before I headed up here and I have to say that’s really not fair. No one is ever going to put the Coliseum on their list of top 10 ballparks. It’s a no frills, mixed use facility, but those are the only problems with it. The park was clean, the seats were comfortable, most seats appear to have a good view of the field and we bought black and tans for only $8.25. Suffice to say no frills was far from uncomfortable. The no frills part does mean there weren’t a lot of unique regional specialities in the food court but we enjoyed polish sausage rolls, corn dogs and nachos – hey, it was a doule header. Nine hours at the ballpark. Don’t judge me. 😉 And even though the drawbacks of a mixed use facility are odd shaped seating and fields and still being able to see the lines from the previous week’s soccer match on the field, it’s still a baseball field, the most gorgeous shade of green in the world:
Besides, in Oakland, instances of the wave were blessedly few and far between and no one, seriously no one, bounced stupid beach balls around the stadium. Angels fans, take note. Please! Also, I don’t know what the players think of them, but as a fan I really liked seeing the old fashioned, on the field, open bullpens and dugouts for a change:
I took advantage of those on the field bullpens when I bought our tickets – on the field, 12 rows behind the mound in the Angels’ bullpen. It was a lot of fun to see the bullpen warmups up close:
It was also a lot of fun to have a good vantage for so many of the serious warm-ups, hanging out and general goofing around that goes on before a game. I’ve included more photos of that than game photos this time because, well, they’re fun and I don’t often have the opportunity:
And, of course, the games weren’t without their fair share of derring do. Jered Weaver was, well, Jered Weaver. Ervin Santana was shakey but kept it together. The bullpen was great. We had great hits, notably from Erick Aybar, Mark Trumbo, Vernon Wells and – yay! -from Mike Trout. We made some great plays too. With a few less stranded runners in the second game, who knows?:
If only the Angels had won the second game, it would have been a perfect day…and I’m sorry to say that as good a time as I had, I am not a good enough sport to have left the ballpark in perfectly high spirits after losing the second game. One great win, a near win and an amazing time at a double header should have been enough…but they weren’t quite, not for a perfectly gleeful mood. I still had a lot of fun, mind you. But it’s hard not to feel just a little but deflated even so. The A’s, or better yet the Angels, have to, have to, have to do this again next season. Have to! 🙂
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Outside of baseball, coming up to the Bay Area and hanging out with friends from college has a lovely feel of both fun in the here and now and nostalgia to it. I was definitely ready to start the rest of my life and move on from college once it was over, but those were four very fun years. Getting the band back together, as it were, for a few nights of fun however does remind me of a few things I miss, like the ability to spend long periods of time just hanging out…and that wonderful sense of possibility you feel when you know you’re smart and willing to work your butt off and life has yet to hand you any real beat downs…well, that, and the ability to be fully functional after three hours of sleep and 1/3 or so of a 1/5 of something tasty. 😉
Next Post: the Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza concludes with a trip to AT&T Park for a Giants vs. Dodgers game.
What’s that you say? No baseball this week. Well, fine then. We’ll go on vacation and make our own fun:
Okay, so some of you live for the All-Star game. Me, I appreciate the concept and love to see the interviews and interactions surrounding it, but just can never get into the game itself, except as background noise. Honestly I think it’s because the players switch in and out with such frequency that it seems like a completely different game every other inning or so – patchwork baseball rather than a continuous game. Maybe with less players, such that everyone remained in the game longer, I’d like it more.
With this attitude of mine, and the fact that Thursday was a travel day for the haloed ones, it was fortuitous that the beginning of Seth’s and my vacation fell within this dead period. Yes, I am posting this from the road on our Bay Area Baseball Extravaganza trip! It’s a long drive from Los Angeles to Oakland though, and realizing that the friends we are staying with are not on vacation, we decided to stop over at my inlaws’ beach house in Cambria for a few days first and then complete the drive on Friday.
Cambria is a small town just north of San Luis Obispo and just south of San Simeon of Hearst’s Castle fame. It’s our usual base of operations for our regular excursions into Paso Robles wine country, just not this trip. If you’ve ever read any of the smart, delightful lunacy that is Christopher Moore – and if you haven’t you should 😉 – Cambria is Pine Cove. Literally. The author used to live here. Okay, so there are no lust lizards or zombie Santa Clauses but the shops and many of the locals do fit the descriptions. Behold, the local gas station and car wash with a better wine selection than many wine shops in Los Angeles:
…But I digress. We left Los Angeles late after work on Wednesday, arrived in Cambria around 3 a.m. Thursday – seriously Caltrans, just because it’s “Car-mageddon” this week doesn’t mean you also need to start work on every single construction project on the docket, okay – and were on the water in San Simeon Bay by 11 a.m. This is a great way to start a vacation. I love ocean kayaking, especially surrounded by all of this loveliness:
William Randolph Hearst had the original pier built to bring supplies to his “humble abode” which he just referred to as “the Ranch.” Some ranch! I highly recommend a tour if you are ever in this part of the world. Interesting side note about Hearst. Did you know that he played baseball as a young man? A Hearst’s Castle tour guide once told me that when Hearst went away to boarding school back east, he and a few other boys in his class weren’t interested in the sports the school offered, so they introduced their peers to baseball. Hearst was also the newspaper editor who first published Ernest Thayer’s famous Casey at the Bat when he wasn’t off furnishing wars and the like, of course. Pretty cool stuff.
This morning, to cap off our brief Cambria stay, we rode our bikes up California’s famous Highway One from Cambria to San Simeon Bay and back again. Sixteen miles of rolling hills, clear blue sky and gorgeous ocean views, not to mention taking in the clean, briny smell of the ocean with each breath. It was the perfect way to pass the time until our games start up again this evening.
And now, I return you to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. The All Star Break is over, even for the Angels, today and we are packing up the car for the next leg of our trip to Oakland, to visit good friends and enjoy great baseball. Next post: the A’s vs. Angels double header on Saturday. I can’t wait!